food

A Recipe: Roasted Korean pears with Ginger

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This post has been updated on my website here.

One of my new year goals for 2019 is to write more — and what better subject to write about than food? Asian culture is a culture that revolves heavily around food. The making, the eating, the sharing. Oftentimes revolved around gossip, singing, or maybe a game of mahjong for the uncles and aunties. It is something I am really excited to share.

These pears were grown by Papa Hsin in his yard in Canada. As Asian parents go, I didn’t grow up knowing my dad as he spent a lot of time working. As a child, sometimes the only interaction we will have is when he signed my report cards every week (a moment where I will tremble slightly, even though I have always been a top student). But food — will forever be a way Asian parents show love. A catch-up session with Papa Hsin will always start with him pulling out fruit, steamed buns or something he made from his bag and handing it over with a smile. I think it is his peace offering for all the smiles he didn’t give me when he signed my report cards.

Similar to me, my dad grew up in many places. One of my favorite subjects to ask him about is the time when he lived in Saudi Arabia and worked as a martial arts trainer for the police force. The stories of endless deserts, lizard hunting with bearded men, drinking camel milk and getting lost in sandstorms. Terrorism, female rights. They were the stories that teleported me to faraway places and planted in me a seed for travel and social justice. In fact — one of my career goals as a high school student was to become a journalist and cover stories of war and in the Middle East. Of course, that didn’t end up happening and today, both of us settled in Canada where I work as a photographer and him as a retired officer. I like to think that we are both finding our peace and place here. Him in his garden, hosting dinners with Chinese neighbors and me in the kitchen, behind the camera, or off backpacking to another exciting location.

Food to me will always be magic. It is the art of creating something from simple and good ingredients. Food is a vehicle for stories, culture, and tradition. A delicious reminder that we are cared for and thought of.

So here to the new year, I hope it will be one filled with stories and meals shared over tables with conversations that are long and good.

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Roasted Korean pear with ginger

Ingredients:

• 4 Korean pears. Sliced in half with the seeds removed

• 1 tbsp fresh ground ginger*

• A dash of ground cinnamon

• A squeeze of lemon juice

• 1 tbs brown sugar (opt out if you aiming for less sugar)

Directions: 

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. 

2. Place pears on a baking tray with cut sides up. Sprinkle ground ginger, cinnamon powder, lemon juice on pears. Top with brown sugar.

3. Bake for 20 minutes or until tender. 

4. Let the pears cool before serving, preferably with vanilla ice cream. Preferably with a friend. Enjoy.

*I like to use organic ginger since I find it more pungent. I’ve also found ginger jam to be a good substitute.

A photo of me and Papa in his yard. Shot on film in 2017.

Happy New Year!

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Postcards from San Francisco

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Dusk at Golden Gate Bridge. 

San Francisco is the city of golden light. It is the city where you embrace the west coast the moment you step out of the airport. The air is not humid like New York, there are palm trees, bursts of colors, fog and sunshine. 

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You know you are in California when you take photos of palm trees. 
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Stumbled across the newly opened flower shop Marigold. A beautiful space.
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Local flora and street art. 

San Francisco is bay windows, lemon trees outside your window and Hispanic grandmothers selling cups of fruit with chili powder on the street. It is tacos for three square meals and tracing the light from your morning coffee till it disappears behind the Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco is watching fluffy dogs leaping around in Mission Park with fresh nectarines in your bag and juice dribbling down your chins. 

I loved walking through the packed streets of Chinatown, the familiar smell of fading groceries and the lineups up for boba tea. San Francisco is the quiet across the water, the trains, the buses, the people that cannot block the chill of summer and light that streams between buildings and museums that make this city.

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Ferry Building Market. Explored the area with friends, sampled six different kinds of peaches. A place where you want to eat and photograph everything.
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A white eggplant!

San Francisco is where I crossed off another city on my list and went home satisfied knowing that my world is smaller. It is a city to cross off your travel list and return to visit again and again.

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Greens at Conservatory of Flowers
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Till next time, San Francisco. 

Some recommendations:

Ferry Building Marketplace: A mecca for chefs, food lovers and tourists like me.

Tartine Bakery: Everything is delicious here! Coffee, artisan bread, everything. I loved people watching here. Must visit and eat here.

Conservatory of Flowers: If you love plants, come here for a half day trip. Beautiful and photogenic too.

Boba Guys: I don’t even drink boba in Taiwan but this place was really good! Impressed with the quality of my matcha tea and almond jelly.

How to Make Totoro Rice Cakes — A Tutorial

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Before I go off into the fascinating world of Totoro Rice Cake’s, there are lyrics from The Cinematic Orchestra – To Build a Home I must share.

It goes:

Out in the garden where we planted the seeds
There is a tree as old as me
Branches were sewn by the colour of green
Ground had arose and passed it’s knees
By the cracks of the skin I climbed to the top

I climbed the tree to see the world
When the gusts came around to blow me down
I held on as tightly as you held onto me
I held on as tightly as you held onto me

Combining these lyrics along with my favourite Hayao Miyaziki film hero—Totoro—I can just about envision the furry beast standing beside his acorn seeds, climbing on tree tops, and roaring his head off in ferocious grace for all that have ears to hear.

It is incredible to think that someone thought of stringing these words together into a song that is a perfect soundtrack for making Totoro rice cakes.

I think these things lead to a certain kind of excitement in being a creative. Knowing that you possess a skill or ability to create something that resonates with the rest of the world. For this season, that being me, in my studio where I dream of ideas and set about creating them.

To know that I have at the tip of my fingertips the ability to command to life an army of Totoro’s is quite empowering. While this post is to share my love for rice cakes, I hope that we all find and pursue diligently that medium where we bring much joy to ourselves and to the world.

Without further ado, here are steps to making your own Totoro rice cake, for you and for me.

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You will need:
Ground sesame powder
Cooked sushi rice
Piece of sliced cheese
Sheets of nori
Clean boba straw
Toothpicks
Leaves to decorate

totoro_rice_cakes_sophia_hsin_tutorial-13.jpg1. Mix sesame powder into rice for desired shade of grey. Puncture cheese with boba straw for Totoro eyes.totoro_rice_cakes_sophia_hsin_tutorial-14.jpg2. Use plastic wrap to mold grey and white rice into appropriate size for torso, abdomen and ears.Totoro_Rice_Cake_Tutorial_Sophia_Hsin-4.jpg3. Trim circles of nori for eyes, nose, and half moons for belly. Insert ears into Totoro torso and secure with toothpicks.Soot_Sprites_Totoro_Rice_Cake_Sophia_Hsin-12.jpg4. For Susuwatari (Soot Sprites) — roll rice ball onto nori sheet, soften edges of nori with water to shape. Decorate with eyes.
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5. There you have it, Totoro and soot sprite rice cakes. Better when they match your socks.
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Photograph them on black.yay-5.jpgGift them to a friend.Totoro_Rice_Cake_Tutorial_amelia_hedgehog-5.jpgIntroduce them to your hedgehog.

Do enjoy.

The end.

Find tutorials to Alpaca Rice Cakes here & Panda Rice Cakes here.

Allepey: The Backwaters of Kerala, India

india_kerala_allepey-2The calm waters of Allepey, Kerala. It’s so peaceful here.

Hello from Kerala, India!

Besides having a load of unexpected events happen each day or learning the concept of “Indian time”. It has been an amazing time and I am glad to say I’ve met and made a few lovely and warm locals that spent no time in helping us get around or tell us everything we wanted to know about their life in India.

After arriving in Allepey, we spent the day on a houseboat drifting around the canals with short stops between villages and the endless rice patties. 

india_kerala_allepey-5Plantains – a main part of the Indian diet. I’ve tried it fried in batter with cumin, folded into coconut omelettes, tucked into Thaili meals and eaten raw like a normal banana.

india_kerala_allepey-4The tata with the coolest eyebrows who offered to row us around on his tiny boat (200 rupees) and said yes to this photo after we politely declined.

india_kerala_allepey-6Our cook on the houseboat was a marvellous one. We had papped fried in coconut oil, vegetable stir fry with coconut, the best sambar daal, cucumber bean salad and multiple rounds of chai each day. 

It’s been very interesting observing the locals and most of the time I am just blown away by the similarities and differences we have. 

Everyday people work(fish, grow rice or row boats), eat curry, bathe and basically live their lives by the river. It is refreshing to experience such a simple way of life and it makes me very grateful for the conveniences I am so used to on a day to day basis.

india_kerala_allepey-3The rows and rows of endless rice patties. I am certain that most of India is covered in rice fields.

As we travel through Kerala, I feel like I’ve understood a little more of this mysterious country in it’s vastness, beauty, culture, the people and everything in between that leaves me hungering for more.

Next up, Varkala Beach, Munnar and Kochin!

A Recipe: Blueberry Arugula Salad

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The wonderful thing about growing up is having a lot of your childhood wishes come true, like photographing llamas or picking fresh berries on a blueberry farm.

I took the liberty of the weekend and drove out to the unknown territory of Maple Ridge, known for it’s fruit, vegetable farms, and llamas.

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I have always wanted to photograph a llama. The small black one is only two days old.

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I’ve never seen a blueberry bush growing up in Asia and I’m proud to admit that I must have ingested a couple pounds of blueberries that day. It’s safe to say that you can never get enough of the good things and berries are one of them.

There is no better way to end a blueberry picking day than visiting llamas on a farm. The owners were so kind to show us around and I got to pet a few that were being trained. It was an extraordinary experience.

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Llama with a very attractive backside

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Llamas are like large fluffy dogs with very long necks

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Mama llama with baby llama. She was so protective I couldn’t get too close but this is one of my favourites.

Without further ado, here is the salad recipe with photos. Tastier when you pick the blueberries yourself.

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Blueberry Arugula Salad with Lemon Honey Dressing:

*Serves 4
SALAD:
5 ounces baby arugula
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup roasted almonds

1/2 cup crumbled feta

LEMON HONEY DRESSING:

3 tablespoons lemon juice (half a lemon)
squeeze of honey
4 tablespoons olive oil
sprinkle of salt & pepper
 
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You know you’re cool when you mix your salad in a beer bucket.

Directions:

  1. Whisk together dressing ingredients.
  2. Combine the arugula, blueberries and dressing  in a large bowl.
  3. When ready to serve, sprinkle almonds and feta on top

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*Serve with chilled sweet tea

I will leave you with my new favourite quote from Edward Abbey:

It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”

Till next time.

Postcards from New York

brooklyn_bridge_nyc_sophia_hsin (1 of 1)Hai Brooklyn Bridge

Remember when you were little and read all the E.B.White books and watched the sailboat race in Stuart Little and decided that you wanted to go to Central Park and visit New York for yourself?

The New York I met this winter was crowded, incredibly hot (I’m talking about 20 Celsius in December here) and a few shades grittier than I imagined. But the moment you find yourself in a city you’ve had on your travel list for so long is the moment you believe you can do anything you put your mind to. It’s a girl boss moment.

I love waking up in a new city to the twitchy feeling in your stomach because you know there are so many new things to try and places to explore.

Here are a few favourite photos from this trip.

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The Egyptian exhibition was beyond cool and I stood here and took like 10,000 photos.

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Eats with the lovely Nana. Yes, the food is as good as it looks and Whyte Hotel is probably my favourite non-minimal hotel ever.

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Brooklyn Bridge

Tourist check.

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Not going to lie, I can live off coffee and milk bar ice cream.

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Totokaelo 

Cooler than the one in Seattle. Unrealistic wardrobe goals check.

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Came here for marbled tables and photogenic matches lattes.

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Bakeri
My future home is going to have this lightning. Plus Williamsburg is the neatest hood for shops and coffee ever.

Thanks to Justin for showing me around. Too bad we came on a cloudy day and missed the window light. The sculpture with the creepy dead cat is worth checking out though.

That’s all for now. And for what I haven’t photographed here’s to more future trips.

Till next time New York City, you were a dream.

Shirt from COS, ZARA. Photo 1 of me by Nana. Everything else by me.

We built a Newspaper Wall and made Strawberry Galette

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The thanksgiving season is a perfect excuse for me to keep the oven on 24/7 and bake anything that comes to mind.

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Pre baked beauties

We made Roasted Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce from Epicurious with a little adaption to the sauce (we used fresh ricotta + whipped cream + dill). You can find a recipe for the Strawberry Basil Balsamic Galette here.

I found the newspaper wall idea from the book Design in Bloom and knew I had to make it. It was fun going around town asking for newspapers and I am always pleasantly surprised how people are willing to help out on my crazy art projects.

Here are photos from our wall.

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It acts as a great photo booth too ✌️

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Plating by Hartman

Collaborations are so fun. You get to work with talented friends that know how to make things look+taste good and you get to eat it too.

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Everything was delicious.

Happy Thanksgiving!